on 16 October 2002
They say never judge a book by its cover. This is certainly true of A CENTURY OF GRAPHIC DESIGN by Jeremy Ansley. A first glance this thick hardback book gives no real clue of its rich and colourful content.
In fact this book holds 256 pages, and over 500 full colour pictures, charting an in depth review of 20th century graphic design. This book not only aims to look at the designs and designers of this era but also look at their influences, and the huge movements that changed the direction and the evolution of graphic design. This book runs right from the beginning of the twentieth century, starting with the coining of the expression “graphic design” by William Addison, and the pupils of the Bauhaus School of Art, known as the “seed bed” for new design, and culminating with the digital disciplines of which we are accustomed today.
As you navigate through this chronologically ordered book you quickly become aware of the systematic layout it adopts for each chapter. Following an in depth introduction on the beginnings of graphic design, each designer featured here has a uniformly structured biography. This includes a photograph or illustration of themselves, a list of key facts such as; when they lived, there occupation and training, and the role they played in the history of graphic design. The double page spread on each designer also includes a paragraph detailing their lifetime of work in design, accompanied by several examples of their work. Every example has a short description of its purpose. The book is divided into to several chapters each dealing with a different influence in the culture of the 20th century and how this affected the development of design. The chapters begin with a narrative of the goings on of the time and describe in detail how this shaped the course of graphic design. The key designers of each era are then listed within the chapter. Key events that occurred during the era are also included throughout, such as the introduction of the poster, the emergence of Art Deco and the popularity of the style magazines of today.
This well laid out volume is perceptive of the way in which graphic design has evolved over the last century, and provides an interesting historical account of the different movements that have helped shape the importance of graphic design in our lives today. The ease with which the book may be read and navigated makes it a priceless source of reference for both designers and students of design, as well as being of appeal to all those interested in history of art and design.
A “Century Of Graphic Design” has many strengths (so why pick up this book?), it is a very detailed review of 20century graphic design and indeed culture. It acts as an excellent resource for research in to the history of design and graphic designers, and contains excellent full colour examples of the best graphic design of the century. The chronological way in which the book is laid out, and its easy to use page layouts make this book an excellent resource for a design student, as you can easily look up the “key facts”, browse genres and discover how and why graphic movements occurred. I also found that this book was a good foundation for acquiring inspiration for a graphic problem of today, enabling you to look back on what other designers had found out and experimented with in the past.
Through out this book each chapter has a different colour, it was a great shame that they didn’t colour code the sections to the index. This would have been a nice touch to make this book even easier to navigate.
I feel that it is vital that books such as this one continue to be written, as I believe that today’s designer should be aware of historical events and major influences of the past, that groundbreaking designers have used to shape the face of graphic design today. Over all this book has tried hard to lay down the facts from a neutral point of view, this book will be of interest to not only graphic designers and design students, but to anyone who enjoys fantastic art and design.